Luang Prabang, the former capital of Lan Xan kingdom was formed nearly 7 centuries ago, famous for its French colonial architecture, ancient pagodas, peaceful Mekong river go through the city or Buddhist monks in saffron-color dress. Luang Prabang is definitely on the must-visit list of for every tourist. Let’s discover Luang Prabang with our simple travel guide below:
1. Where is Luang Prabang?
Luang Prabang is the name of the ancient capital, the birthplace of the kingdom of Lan Xan (also known as the Million Elephants Country). Being the center of Northern Laos also the capital of Northern Laos, this city is very rich of culturale and religious value. Population of Luang Prabang is only 22,000 people.
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2. Best time to visit Luang Prabang?
Like the other destinations in Laos, Luang Prabang is beautiful four seasons a year. However, you should visit Luang Prabang in the dry season from October to April next year to admire the blue Kuang Sy waterfall in the dry season. The weather in this period is also very cool and dry.
3. How to get to Luang Prabang?
Luang Prabang International Airport has direct flights to:
Laos: Phongsali, Vientiane, Xieng Khouang
Thailand: Bangkok, Chiang Mai
Cambodia: Siem Reap
Vietnam: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh
You can check flight time and price with these airways below:
Hanoi – Luang Prabang: Lao Airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Qatar Airways.
Ho Chi Minh City – Luang Prabang: Lao Airlines, Jetstar Pacific Airlines, Vietnam Airlines.
Bangkok – Luang Prabang: Bangkok Airways, Airasia, Thai Airway.
You can check flight from Europe to Luang Prabang with Skyscanner.
Luang Prabang has roads connecting to:
Road 13 North: Vang Vieng and Vientiane
Street 1: Muang Xay
From Hanoi you can buy tickets to Luang Prabang at 3A Nguyen Gia Thieu, near the Embassy of Laos in Hanoi or 35B Nguyen Huy Tuong or Nuoc Ngam bus station.
The Mekong River is another important way. You can go to Huay Xai a small city near the Thai border then go by boat for two days. Boat will stop at Pak Beng, near Luang Prabang.
4. Hotel in Luang Prabang
Lotus Villa: located in the heart of the city center, price including breakfast, free airport shuttle bus. Price range from $80/night.
Lam Khan Riverside: Breakfast included, free airport shuttle bus and Mekong river view. Room rates from $50/night.
Pakhongthong Villa: price range from $40/night, including breakfast, airport shuttle bus, central location.
Downtown Backpackers Hostel: $7/night/bed in dorm, 1 minute walk to the Royal Palace and night market. Central location.
5. What to visit in Luang Prabang?
Old Town: Heart of Luang Prabang. Along the old town there are many beautiful temples. At 5:00 am you can see and participate in the takbat ceremony. The monks go around town to pray and bless the people. Local people sit in pavement and give them food as a way to express respect.
Mount Phousi (ticket 20,000kip / person): this is the name of the temple located on the top of the mountain of the same name (Phousi), the most ideal place to watch the sunset in Luang Prabang.
Wat Visoun: The oldest pagoda in Luang Prabang with stupas built hundreds of years old.
Wat Aham: The temple contains many bronze and wooden Buddha statues of all sizes dating back hundreds of years.
Wat Xiengthong (20,000kip/person): The most beautiful pagoda in Luang Prabang with a curved tile roof like a very delicate boat.
Royal Palace (20,000 kip/person): currently preserving royal treasures and daily items of Lao Royal Family.
Kuang Si Waterfall, bear conservation farm and butterfly garden (20,000kip/person): Kuang Sy is the most beautiful waterfall in Laos where you can swim and relax. To get here, you can ask the hotel to book a minivan bus for 35,000 kip, or rent a 200,000kip tuk tuk for 5 persons.
Tad Sea Waterfall (10,000kip/person): is a beautiful emerald green waterfall to swim. To get here you can buy boat tickets at the pier near the night market. Or buy a group tour to an elephant farm included ticket to waterfall.
Elephant Camp at Shangrila Resort: you have to book tour with price at $74/person (retail purchase) or $62/person for over 3 persons group. You will experience riding an elephant. The Lao elephant sitter can control his elephant with just his voice, preferably a tourist sitting alone on an elephant’s neck, the experience was great! Laos people love elephants, and take care very well of them.
Night Market: an attractive place to enjoy food street, with 15,000kip you can try streetfood buffet. The barbecue here is also cheap and delicious.
Utopia bar: this is the most crowded bar in Luang Prabang. People often come here in the afternoon to watch the sunset. Come here to drink beer, listen to music, dance and then go to sleep.
Nava Cruise ($30/person): Dinner on boat in Mekong River, watching sunset, watching music performance and traditional dance of Laos. It’s very romantic experience for couples. Please contact the hotel for booking.
Pak Ou Caves: This cave is 25kms from Luang Prabang, I have not come here yet. According to the instructions, you buy tickets at the marina (where to buy tickets to Tad Sea waterfall). In addition, in Luang Prabang also has a tour to Pak Ou Caves and eat on boat for $25/person.
Baci Ceremony: An unique experience in Laos. This is a prayer ritual hosted by a Buddhist monk. The monk will pray and bless you. At the end of the ceremony, the monk will tie a thread to your wrist as a way to keep you lucky. This ritual is very interesting for couples or families.
6. Shopping & souvenir in Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang Night Market, the busiest market in Luang Prabang. The market starts at 4 pm with a lot of products such as jewelry, gold, silver, clothes, bags in traditional style.
Lisa Regale: This is a chain of shops stretching from Wat Khily to Wat Xieng Thong. The store’s main products are clothes and bags, silk products with traditional Lao style. There are also products that combine with European styles.
Kopnoi: Located next to Phousi Mountain, this is a great place for you to buy hand-made products in Luang Prabang made of natural materials such as clothes, jewelry, accessories. Certainly it’s very attractive for women.
7. Useful Tips
Pay with a Visa Debit Master Card if you don’t want to bring too much cash. Cash withdrawal fee in Laos is very high (about 5-8$/time). You can exchange money in Luang Prabang Airport.
Laotians are friendly, honest and extremely hospitable. Smile and ask for permission when taking photos. Do not step on the monk’s shadow when they walk in the sun.
Laotian food is very spicy, ask for “less spicy” when ordering.
Laos weather is very hot, get effervescent vitamin C when you feel thirsty.